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Our Favourite Flies: The Freshwater Shrimp / Scud

A fly pattern that needs no introduction, one of the most common food sources known to trout, the freshwater shrimp aka scud. They are a steady food source available year-round due to their fully aquatic life cycle, making them a stillwater staple for trout. Scuds are regularly targeted by trout in the spring and fall months when the other insect hatches haven’t quite started yet, or inversely, the hatches have come to an end.

Fall is one of our favourite times of the year to fish these patterns as trout begin to bulk up for the long winter ahead. This fly pattern and slight variations of it, have made for exciting days on the water predominantly because they are a delight to imitate and they’re readily available.

Scuds are classified primarily into two groups; the smaller Hyallela and the larger, more commonly recognized, Gammarus. They both come in a wide variety of colours and sizes, making it important to have a good selection in your fly box, depending on which the trout are feeding on.

Fly Fishing Techniques & Retrieves:

Scuds live close to the bottom of the lake and shuffle around the plant life or other objects for cover. Their little darting/ swimming motions is what makes them so much fun to imitate in the water. They juke and jive; left, right, up and down as they scurry around while searching for food (decaying plant matter). Scuds can be found in water depths ranging from 1' ft and up to 20' ft or more. When you’re fishing these freshwater shrimp in depths of 12' ft or less, a floating line with a long leader will work great. If you’re in water deeper than 12' ft, a type 1.25 intermediate sinking line or a type 3-5 sinking line will work best. Let the fly settle close to the bottom. The best place for fly location is going to be a cast in any area where plant life is present; ideally on the shoals, shallows and towards the edge of the drop off zones to find the feeding trout.

Lake shoal for trout fishing
Freshwater shrimp/ scud habitat

Due to their erratic swimming pattern, the retrieve is the most important factor to take note of and is what brings the most joy. There are two main retrieves that should be considered to have success on the water. The first is probably the most common for fly fisherman. The retrieve begins by slowly stripping the line in with a few 3-5” inch slow consistent pulls, followed by several 2-3” inch quick pulls, and then a short 2-3 second pause. (Then repeat). The pause is the important part of this technique because this will be the trout’s natural time to attack. The second retrieve method is similar to the first, but it’s slightly more aggressive. This involves a machine-gun like formula where you begin stripping in 10-12 times with short 2-4” inch quick pulls. Cast your line in the same areas as mentioned above and let your fly settle towards the bottom. Start stripping in your fly line once your fly is in the correct zone and follow up with a 2-3 second pause and you’ll be into fish in no time.

Fly Tying Tips:

Scuds are another easy fly pattern to tie and they don’t require a lot of materials. They are typically tied on a size #12-16 scud hook or curved nymph hook in different shades of olive. There are a few variations which are important to have in your fly box, for example, tying with or without the bead. The bead is great for adding additional weight to your presentation and getting the fly into the zone faster. Although, there are benefits to tying without the bead depending on your water depth. Female scuds will develop a collection of eggs underneath their exoskeleton at different times throughout the year. These tend to be orange or pink in colour, so blending a tiny cluster of orange or pink dubbing to the thorax region of the body does a great job of imitating a pregnant freshwater shrimp. Scud back is commonly used to mimic the exoskeleton of the shrimp. Remember to use a dubbing brush to brush the dubbing down and expose the swimming legs underneath the body. Wire is used to give the body a bit of segmentation and it also provides durability to your fly pattern. You can also add mono eyes towards the head of the fly, but it’s often overlooked. Here’s a great freshwater shrimp fly tying video brought to you by BCFlyguys, the Simple Scud, we hope you enjoy!

Tight lines & FISH ON!